The night began at 6:45, fans poured into the gym, eager to watch the three seniors of the Mountain View team get recognized for their contributions to the volleyball program. Bailey Rogers, Hayley Sturgeon, and Becky Slattery have taken the court of the Spartan gym numerous times in their lives, but on their senior night, playing a game against cross-town rivals Los Altos High School for a potential CCS playoff bid, it was perhaps the most important game they would ever play in a Mountain View uniform.
The senior night festivities cleared, and from the cloud of celebration arose an electric environment that would be the fuel to this game’s fire. The first set began like most of the game would be played: in a stalemate. After the two teams exchanged 10 points back and forth, Sturgeon, through a spree of impressive serving, was able to widen the margin and give the Spartans the lead. Riding the momentum of the crowd, the Spartans held on to the advantage that Sturgeon helped give them and eventually won the first set by a score of 25-20.
The second, third, and fourth sets showcased the inconsistency that Mountain View struggled with earlier in the season.
After a strong start in the first set, the Spartans were unable to find their grip in the game, and the Eagles dominated the second set 25-15.
The third set saw a return of the passionate Spartans who came out at the start of the match and Mountain View captured the third set and a 2-1 lead in the game.
But the Eagles demonstrated their drive and unwillingness to let the game get away from them. Playing solid, fundamental team volleyball and especially impressive defense, Los Altos came away with the fourth set by a score of 25-18.
As it seemed destined from the start, the game was sent into the fifth set, in a winner-take-all situation. High school rules dictate that the fifth set is played to 15 points—the winning team has to win by two points.
The fifth set began with the repeated “MV” chant. The roar let loose by the Sixth Man Club echoed off the walls of the gym, shaking the bleachers, and immediately lifting the heads of the Spartans players. This is the moment one dreams of as a little girl, the type of situation only found in storybooks and Disney movies.
“This is Sparta!” the fans screamed. The Spartans felt it, and they were going to make sure everyone knew it.
The Spartans came out playing the most passionate and determined volleyball of the night. Mountain View jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the set. Yet, as the previous sets had shown, the team with the most momentum was ultimately the most successful. After that 4-0 lead, the momentum shifted to Los Altos who scored four unanswered points to tie the game at 4-4. The two teams continued to trade points until the Spartans were subject to a few questionable calls by the referee that put the team in a 14-10 hole. Coach Anthony Chen called a timeout and brought his team over to the sidelines.
“Just stay together,” Chen said. “We know we can come back on most teams if we stay together and play the cleanest volleyball that we can.”
Chen’s words resonated with his players because for the next four points the Spartans played flawless volleyball. The team took the court to the sound of the Sixth Man Club encouraging them, chanting “We believe, we believe, we believe.”
In an emotional moment, everyone in that gym believed.
After a series of what seemed to be fairytale rallies, the Spartans clawed, scratched, and found themselves back in the game with a score of 13-14. The tension in the gym during the ensuing rally was suffocating. The fans who had been booming the entire game bit their tongues, flinching at every touch of the ball. After what seemed like an eternity, the Spartans smashed down a point to tie the game at 14-14. The gym erupted.
“When they tied that game, person for person, pound for pound, that was the best energy I’ve ever felt at an MVHS sporting event,” senior Matty Muñoz, president of the Sixth Man Club said.
The teams went back and forth, struggling with everything they had to find the two-point lead that would end the game. The Spartans themselves had three match points that they were unable to capitalize on. Finally, Los Altos found themselves with a 22-21 lead. Despite an impressive defensive effort from the Spartans, they were unable to keep the final point from finding the hardwood floor of the gym.
“You can’t really nit-pick,” Chen explained. “We had our chances, they had their chances and when it comes down to it they made a few more plays than us.”
Despite the loss, Chen had no shame in the game the Spartans played.
“I don’t even have words for [describing the Spartans’ heart]. As a coach you can’t expect anything else, that was absolutely epic,” he said.
Chen’s feelings were mutual, and the players on the team knew they had nothing to be ashamed of. Despite the loss, the game was a giant step for the Mountain View volleyball program, which had never seen support like they saw this game.
“The energy was really good, the best it’s been all season,” Sturgeon said. “It’s indescribable what it was like to be playing out there.”
The school spirit and unity demonstrated at the game was unmatched in my years at Mountain View High School. Seeing both guys and girls, freshmen and seniors, all together in one place, celebrating the successes of our school was a truly special occasion.
After the match, senior Nick van Osdol was asked if there was anything more exciting than the game and school spirit he had just lived.
“Probably not,” he answered. “Maybe skydiving.”